Letters to the Editor Speak Out

Published in the September 2008 Issue September 2008

Impound Blues

Have you ever considered writing an article on legal problems with boat storage units? I was wondering if a boatyard could impound a boat if you were late on paying the storage fee. I know some of us that can't afford lawyers would be interested in learning more about situations like this.

Kenny Sickler

Via Email

This question was answered by Joan Wenner, who has been writing and covering boating law for over 25 years and is a contributor to PDB magazine:

Storage fees, and liens placed by boatyards thereon, is a little different situation as we could presume these boats are not abandoned and storage fees are simply late and owner of boat has indicated no `intent' to actually abandon it.

Basically it involves boaters reviewing their written storage agreement with the boatyard, if any, for a clause addressing storage fees. Every state has specific statutes relating to liens allowed to be placed by boatyards for storage fees (and/or unpaid repair bills.). If a boater has no written agreement or if it is silent on storage fee payments, the yards in most cases go the lien route and/or small claims court. A local court sitting in `equity' will likely award a judgment to the boatyard based on a kind of `unjust enrichment' theory, as the boat owner is in effect receiving free storage while the storage fee(s) remains unpaid.

I contacted one of my expert contacts at the premier marina, Green Turtle Bay Resort on the Cumberland River, and William E. Gary, III provided me with the clause on late payment of storage fees from their written storage agreement wherein a service charge of one and a half percent per month is assessed on all sums delinquent for more than 30 days. After a period of time and based on the circumstances, they could proceed to placing a lien on the vessel, which he said works well and is the most often used legal remedy while keeping the vessel locked up at the boatyard.

Long Haul

The July issue just showed up in the mail, nice job. I was glad to see Ted Thompson is back and saddened to hear that Dan McKain has left us. Condolences to his family, both regular and professional.

I've been getting the magazine in the mail for over a year now and really enjoy it. I like it best in the "frozen months" here in Minnesota, as I can daydream about sunny days on the lake. This is our first boat and we've had it nearly two years now, with this our second summer. Your magazine is wonderful for us newbies and gives me some confidence.

I was enjoying the "Trailer Tips: Long Distance Hauls" article and a few things occurred to me. I lusted over the mirrors on that Dodge. I wish I could get something like that for my 2004 Durango. I have an aftermarket set that strap on, but they are such a pain to get "just right" and they look like crap. Some discussion of the importance of extended mirrors would have been nice to add to that article.
Second, I think "planning your route" would have been a good addition to the article as well. That might mean scouting it before "Bertha" is on the back, with an eye towards avoiding narrow roads and tight turns if possible, which means knowing in advance where they are. Tools like Map Quest and Google maps can help as well. I'll generally take a country highway anytime I can get one.

And finally the article should have included something on pre-trailering. Buyers need to think about trailering when they're standing there in the showroom getting ready to buy. I love our 25-foot pontoon to death, but man there are times in the average boat ramp parking lot when I acutely realize my trailering life would have been significantly easier if I'd gone for a 21-footer instead and not just in the maneuvering either. It seems most of the parking spots aren't expecting a trailer quite that long either.

Love the magazine, keep up the great work,

Geo Rule,

Ramsey, MN

You make some great points, thanks for passing those along. I wish we would have had more room in the magazine to run more tips and suggestions, but this topic is practically endless. Thanks for the kind words towards our magazine and good luck with your new pontoon.

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